NEW YORK (AP) — A clash over inclusivity and alleged anti-Semitism spilled onto the stage at one of two competing women’s march rallies in New York City on Saturday, with a protester co-opting the podium to declare the movement’s backers “the real Nazi march.”
The woman, identified by supporters as 25-year-old political activist Laura Loomer, interrupted Women’s March NYC director Agunda Okeyo as she was making opening remarks at the rally near a cluster of courthouses in lower Manhattan.
“The women’s march does not represent Jewish people. The women’s march is the real Nazi march,” Loomer said. She continued ranting as security ushered her from the stage, screaming: “What about the Jews?”
Loomer’s past protest stunts have included handcuffing herself to a Twitter office after the service banned her and jumping a fence at a home owned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with several men she described as immigrants in the country without legal documentation.
Okeyo, who rejects that the movement is anti-Semitic, responded to the interruption by welcoming Jews and reminding the crowd about the purpose of the rally. Her group is a chapter of Women’s March Inc., which helped organize the first Women’s March in 2017 in Washington, D.C., the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
“This is not a negative day,” Okeyo said. “You’re not coming with that. We’re not doing that today. What we’re doing today is we’re going to uplift each other and we’re going to make sure we stay positive.”
A competing march, organized by the Women’s March Alliance, was held around Central Park and down Sixth Avenue. Talks to link the groups didn’t go anywhere.
“Movements are messy when you’re organizing that many people, but this is an important movement to be at,” said Hu, 27, who attended the downtown rally. “It’s the largest single-day protest, so for us to fall apart, I question what that means. That’s why I came here.”
Wednesday Krus, 29, said the split meant that half of the people in her graphic design studio wound up going to the march while she and the other half went downtown.
“This should be a cause we can all rally around together,” said Krus, handing out anti-sexism posters she drew. “Even though we’re doing it separately, we’re all doing it for the same cause.”
Christy Toma, 41, attended the Central Park march. She said this year’s demonstration felt less inclusive than the first two. Those events drew lots of men in support of women’s rights, but that wasn’t the case this year, she said.
“Even though the genesis is for a women’s march, I think there’s a lot more at stake for everyone and that message got lost this year,” said Toma.